|Vanilla, pecked by younger chickens, has applied for asylum with the goats.
|Tom and Sid went ballooning.
Thanks to heaps of snow, Kirkwood had announced extension of the season by two
weeks, thus in the end we went once more on Easter Sunday to close the
. As we haven't got to the mountains due to our desert break and
vaulting since March, this was a kind of full stop after our skiing.
We had no great hopes; only to ride a little, not get hurt in the spring soft
snow, and enjoy our last day in white, before spring and summer camping takes
over. It was an overall nice and relaxing affair, except that my legs hurt a lot
for whole two days afterwards — somehow this winter I got used to heaps of
powder, and the spring slush caught me by surprise.
Especially in my (old) knees.
On the last April weekend we got invited to a Greek celebration of Orthodox
Easter by the family of Tom's friend. Alas, we had to split — I took Tom
to the party, while Sid stayed with Lisa at home, since she had a vaulting
practice. Competition season is upon us, and missing on Sunday practices means
that Lisa would skip both team and individual rehearsal. This year the girls
lack much experience — first vaulting was canceled in the fall because
of the wildfires, as one could not really breathe outdoors, then there was the
Christmas break, followed by bad weather, plus other events of the vaulting
club — and the result is relatively bad.
|Lisa had important competition on the same weekend.
|Cloudy weather worsened photographic conditions of an already dark arena.
falls on second Sunday of May. Girls' coach had proposed
that even this practice could be canceled or moved, to which one of the mothers
replied that she intends to celebrate her holiday by dropping her kids at the
vaulting gym and proceed to enjoy wine tasting at the stables. In the end it
turned into a nice afternoon getting together of mothers — we brought some
other refreshments, claimed a table on the deck, and listened to live music on
a beautiful spring day, provided by the
Mother's Day is a big deal here, and practically no-one dares to organize
anything then. Therefore all May events pile up on the following weekend.
Big, important competition, on top of it organized by Lisa's club, which meant
that everybody able-bodied had to help. Also Wings of History
, an annual
open door event on San Martin airport, which would usually see Jeanne and Tom
arrive from South Dakota, and which requires crew to build and pack the balloon
and help with tourists taking tethered rides. When they wrote me from Ned's
stables that they had put together a public event there, I felt like a medieval
convict condemned to quartering.
|Barrel competition under the hay-barn roof.
I worked it thus: we participated in the stable event by loaning our portable
pen for Shelly's pet zoo. We met Jeanne and Tom for dinner on Friday, on
Saturday Sid and our Tom helped them with balloons. Lisa and I were stuck with
Our dinner with Jeanne and Tom took place from five in the afternoon at
Rose's at the Beach
in Morgan Hill, since both balloons and vaulting
required rising early, and so was the dinner. It was nice to sit down with
friends in a less chaotic circumstances than a balloon race. And the food was
delicious, the restaurant had a pleasant ambiance, everything positive.
The boys got up on Saturday by quarter till five, Lisa and I did an hour later.
By then it was clear trouble was brewing — forecast
uncompromisingly announced rain around noon. Besides warmer clothing,
rain-jackets and umbrellas, even timing of the competitions changed at last
minute, so that as many rides would fit in the covered arena and into the
morning as possible. Roofed space was originally planned for girls of the
lowest categories while best shows were to present on an open-air vaulting
circle with a new surface (having been rebuilt throughout the winter) and
with seating on a side slope, thus attractive for audience.
|Lisa and Kate.
|Sid took a picture of Racetrack in Death Valley while flying on his business trip to Texas.
Crazy weather had changed everything. To be precise — it NEVER rains in
California between April and October, a moist monsoon happens in the winter
months. This year everything changed, which has complicated all plans.
The stables don't have any halls, gymnasiums and saddle-rooms; most activities
take place outdoors, for it almost never freezes, and if it rains, it's usually
after a coastal fashion, that is, a shower passes by and it's over.
Girls' barrel gym has a roof, but it is otherwise open to elements from two
sides. Well, there is one gym "building" about the size of a small
construction shed, which fits one barrel and is normally relegated to being
Besides the very competition, all the teams needed space under a roof somewhere,
so they could change and practice, and they found themselves scattered into
barns and sheds, or they sought shelter under the arena roof.
All Lisa's rides were to be held on Saturday; for the morning I had signed up to
work cleaning horse droppings from the competition floor — I chose the one
where Lisa would ride, and thus I saw all her shows. The girls had a bad luck in
not starting on barrels due to rain, but instead on horses, and therefore were
less warmed up, but fared excellently.
Lisa even had a lot of spectators — Tom
and Sid came back from ballooning, Tom's friend from Sacramento arrived with
her whole family, Lisa's school friend Lucy showed up, in the stables I met
family of Petra, whom I know from a long gone pony club, and we got spotted by
Cathy and her daughter Rose. In fact, we did not manage to inform all this
audience about sudden changes in the schedule, so fewer people caught Lisa's
free style than her team show, but I doubt Lisa had time to notice such detail.
|Sea otters at Moss Landing.
|Competition in Woodside, on an emergency loaner mare named Jacy.
Most folks went to have lunch after Lisa's ride; I had to finish my shift, but
eventually got to my food too. By then it was raining and our visitors began
to scatter. That was a good idea, for between eleven a.m. and three p.m.
temperature dropped from nice seventy to mere forty five, and the afternoon part
of the competition was very unpleasant — we, the staff, could at least
wrap ourselves in jackets, but the vaulters had to strip down to thin spandex
costumes and dash between sheds through mud and torrential rain. I am sure that
Lisa was not the only one who went down ill afterwards.
It was only a barrel for Lisa in the afternoon, while higher ranks continued in
the covered arena. I was helping out again, manning the "gate" —
I was ordering and organizing individual vaulters by their schedule and dealt
with the judge and the music operator about all the changes.
Thanks to the desperate attempt to get everybody under a roof, there were
conflicts in the schedule — and some competitors did not in time switch
between the horses and the barrel sections, and their order kept changing.
In the meantime, the judge cannot jump from one category to another, and delays
ensued, as we were waiting for the last member of a specific category to finish
her horse ride and run over to the barrel, while a whole dressed-up and ready
category stood and shivered, but could not start competing.
And since I am a masochist, I let them talk me into coming to help on Sunday
again, though Lisa did not compete anymore. The only positive side to it was
that I did no longer need to worry about her shivering in the cold
somewhere, and I could chat with other mothers, and see part of the higher
level competitions. The weather remained crazy, with storm burst so loud
that neither music nor announcements could be heard in the covered arena.
When I eventually stumbled back home in the afternoon, it took me three days to
stop randomly shiver with cold or drench in sweat. We have simply here, in sunny
California, got thoroughly and unexpectedly chilled by the end of May.
Alas, cold weather dragged on for another week, including our first three-day,
camping Memorial Day. A forecast of frosty nights and daytime snow showers did
not sound enticingly at all, and we stayed at home. Lisa had been already felled
by her illness after her frosty competition, and she did not even go for
We, the rest of the family, took a short drive to Felton on Sunday, I checked
only on my animals on Sunday, and on Monday we toured to Sacramento to visit
Tom's friend Ari. With her, we made a hike by Folsom Lake, and thus we got to
see yet another type of landscape; it was nice at the lake.
|Girls working out with their coach how to re-arrange their free-style for an unfamiliar horse and to fit in an alternate.
|Apollo is too tall for smaller girls.
As soon as she emerged little from being ill, Lisa faced more competitions.
Our weather had changed from stiff winter to summer, but fortunately stables
in Woodside are located in foothills and relatively windy, and they sport
a roofed arena with covered stands, and it was quite bearable. Troubles with
this competition lay not in bad weather, and they developed gradually.
First Ava, thus the second tallest and oldest girl in the team after Lisa,
got stepped on by a horse on Tuesday before the tournament — she could not
vault on account of her injury. When the team horse Perch was warming up right
before the run, it turned out he went lame, and he, too, could not perform.
of the canter team eventually loaned the girls her mare Jacy for individuals
and compulsories, and they rode their basic sets on a horse they had never
ridden before. The fact that Lisa ranked sixth of twenty-three in compulsories,
and thirteenth in her free-style, is a huge success, on a strange horse.
Yet Jacy is too short for team set, when up to three vaulters can be on the
horse's back simultaneously, so the fate of the team was uncertain for a while,
until the main coach Emma magicked out Apollo, a huge white horse from the
Webb Ranch club. Besides the fact that the girls had to quickly re-arrange their
sequence so it would work with only one large person, while the rest are tiny,
they also had to get familiar with the new horse. Apollo is quite cuddly,
patient, quiet and very nice — yet much larger than Perch. In the end,
the team free style set failed on the smallest girls needing to be boosted
on the horse, which disqualified them. One positive thing on the whole fiasco
was that the girls still performed and participated. I can't stop being
fascinated how vaulting teams help each other and loan out their horses.
When Uffa, a horse of the C team, went lame in the midst of the competition, the
girls finished their free-style on Andante, borrowed from a team from Utah.
Last year it was our team who loaned out a horse, this year they got a big
|Red Riding Hood, Hunter, and Wolf.
|All is well, the Hunter overcame the evil Wolf.
Because I did not have to help with anything in these competitions, I could,
in breaks between Lisa's six rides, watch the best of the crop, including
national representation, which I had missed during previous tournaments.
together with the other girls (why associate with a boring mother, right?),
and for her it was the more interesting as she knows some of those vaulters
personally. Some top girls come from our club, but vaulting is such a small
community that the best teams must assemble from all sources, and vaulters
oscillate between clubs. Although the national champions had the most impressive
show, I personally liked better Red Riding Hood
by Pacific Coast
Vaulters. Despite having all tumbled off the horse in one instance, no-one got
injured, and their performance, supported by spooky music, had a consistent
story including the death of the evil Wolf by a heroic Hunter.
Lisa pulled the short straw that day — they had one, the very last, ride
with Kate on a barrel, scheduled for five p.m., and which finished at five
thirty. By then both Lisa and I were completely exhausted, and so we just jumped
into our car, Lisa still wearing her costume without changing — and as I
tried to leave as quickly as possible, I backed into another car. Now we would
have to deal with the insurance company. Something like this has not happened to
me for a long time — on the other hand, I drive up and down the infamous
highway seventeen, where I routinely see cars on their roofs in Big Moody Curve
on rainy days, and if I collected my allotment of accidents by causing a bruised
bumper and a dented fender on the other car, it's probably all right.
afterward I missed my freeway off-ramp, and Lisa and I took a little detour.
Subsequently we ran a garbage disposal in our kitchen sink, and it contained
a tea spoon that had fallen in. I concluded that on such day, it would be best
to crawl into bed and stay there.